Up big 1 minute, big trouble the next for Heat

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were rejoicing for the entirety of

their walk from the Dallas bench to the Miami bench. Heat players

spilled onto the floor, many with fists in the air.

Miami 88, Dallas 73, 7:14 remaining.

Game over, right?

Not a chance. An eerie turnabout from the Dallas-Miami matchup

in the 2006 finals was about to happen, and the Heat were powerless

to stop it.

Dallas outscored Miami 22-5 the rest of the way, harkening

memories of how the Heat saved their title hopes with a huge

fourth-quarter comeback in Game 3 against the Mavericks in

2006.

It not only silenced the Heat celebration, but wrested

home-court advantage in the NBA finals away from the Eastern

Conference champions as well.

Final score, Dallas 95, Miami 93, and the finals are knotted at

a game apiece.

”No question about it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

”That’s about as tough a fourth quarter as you can have. When it

started to slide, it kept on going.”

And going.

And going.

From the moment Wade gave Miami that 15-point lead with a

3-pointer from near the Mavs’ bench, the Heat went icy cold, making

only one of their final 11 shots. Dallas ended the game on a

9-for-10 tear from the field. Heat fans roared when Wade hit his

last 3-pointer, and wound up silenced when Dirk Nowitzki hit the

game-winning layup for Dallas with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Wade didn’t blame the offensive struggles.

”We didn’t have to score another point to win the game,” he

said. ”Our defense was what we lay our heads on. We didn’t play it

the way we normally play. They deserved it. And we didn’t.”

In 2006, the Heat rallied from 13 points down in Game 3 at home

midway through the fourth quarter, avoiding an 0-3 hole in that

series. Dallas got its long-awaited comeuppance Thursday night.

”There’s no way we’re going out like this,” Mavs guard Jason

Terry said, a clear nod to the line Wade used after Game 3 in

2006.

It’s the 12th time since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 finals format

that teams split the opening two games. Teams holding home-court

advantage recovered to win eight of the previous 11 series,

including last year when the Lakers topped the Celtics in seven

games.

And in each of those 11 series, the Game 3 winner wound up

winning the NBA title. This now-super-pivotal Game 3 is Sunday in

Dallas.

”We will bounce back,” Spoelstra said.

Struggling to win close games was one of Miami’s biggest

challenges all season. The Heat went 5-14 in games decided by five

points or less in the regular season, but in the playoffs,

fourth-quarter closeouts had become one of Miami’s calling

cards.

Not on Thursday.

The Heat shot 53 percent in the first 41 minutes, and 9 percent

the rest of the way. Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer with just under 25

seconds left tied the game, but Nowitzki drove down the lane for

the winner on Dallas’ final possession, with Miami having a foul to

give and second-guessing itself afterward about not taking

advantage of that.

Another question afterward: Why Chris Bosh was on Nowitzki then

instead of Udonis Haslem, who has done well against Dallas’ star in

the past?

In the wake of the collapse, there were no answers.

”We had everything going,” Bosh said. ”We had the momentum

going.”

They lost both quickly.

Plus, the postgame talk centered around how Wade and James did

after that 3-pointer with 7:14 to play. The Mavs thought Miami

celebrated too much in that moment. To hear Wade and James tell it,

they didn’t celebrate at all.

”A celebration is confetti, champagne bottles,” Wade said.

”There was no celebration.”

Added James: ”It was no celebration at all. I was excited about

the fact that he hit a big shot, and we went up 15. The same thing

we’ve done over the course of the season.”

Celebration, not a celebration, that all can be argued.

What matters was the score and the finish – and there’s no gray

area there.

Dallas has done this before, rallying from 15 down with 5

minutes left to beat Oklahoma City in overtime, on the road as

well, in the Western Conference finals.

This one was even more impressive, given the stakes.

”We were just trying to stay solid,” Mavericks coach Rick

Carlisle said. ”Look, James and Wade, they’re two of the best

facilitators – ever. … They missed a couple shots and it allowed

us to keep our momentum going.”

James and Wade – who started 22 for 28 from the field in the

game – closed a combined 0 for 7. James missed four shots in the

last 7 minutes, including two 3-pointers on the same possession

that got extended with an offensive rebound by Wade.

But James kept the ball at the top of the key for most of that

stint, the Heat never seeming to even get into a play, much less

executing one.

”The way we closed the game is so uncharacteristic for us,”

Spoelstra said, ”on both ends of the court.”

Wade tried a desperation 3-pointer at the end, bouncing away as

he tumbled to the court, one of his rare missteps in a night where

he finished with 36 points.

It was the 12th time Wade scored at least 35 points in a playoff

game. Miami had been 11-0 when that happens.

”This is a long series, OK?” Spoelstra said. ”We’re not happy

about what happened. But we’ve got an opportunity in Game 3.”

The Heat and Mavericks finished the regular season tied for the

NBA lead with 28 road wins.

Dallas has done its part so far in the finals.

Miami now gets its chance. Bosh said the locker room was

disappointed, but not shocked.

”Just have to stay with it,” Bosh said. ”Don’t get too high.

Don’t get too low. Just stay with the plan. We’re faced with a

challenge now. We have to win on the road. We’ve done it before. We

shouldn’t be surprised that’s our situation.”

Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at

http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds